Grassroots Naturopathic Medicine Health Clinic


What if everything you’ve been told about cholesterol is wrong?  Well almost everything!  Here are some surprising truths about cholesterol you need to know:

Facts About Cholesterol That Might Surprise You

LDL Cholesterol is NOT the best measurement for Cardiovascular Risk

Inflammation and Oxidative Stress are the starting point of artery disease

Increasing your HDL can protect you from Cardiovascular Disease (this one we knew…whew!)

Most cholesterol in your blood DOES NOT come from diet

Arterial plaque formation is a slow process that starts early. 
If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you still NEED this information

Early heart attacks in your family? This lab is CRITICAL to measure once in your life-time.

Learn effective ways to remove cholesterol from the body

Understanding the Cholesterol Measurements

LDL is how much cholesterol is contained in each particle.  Not the total number of particles.  To get an idea of your TOTAL body burden of cholesterol, you need another measurement called Apo B.  Apo B is a tag that is attached to each LDL particle but also other non-HDL particles such as VLDL and others.

Your total Apo B score is a MUCH better assessment of your body’s overall cholesterol burden.

Inflammation and Oxidative Stress as the starting points for arterial plaque formation

How does artery disease begin?  Your blood vessels are lined by a single row of cells called the endothelium.  When the endothelium gets irritated or inflamed, cholesterol can move between the cells and into the lining of arteries.

If the cholesterol is oxidized, it gets swallowed up by a macrophage (the pac-man white blood cells) and then is called a foam cell.  Foam cells have a way of attracting their friends and eventually you get a formation of an arterial plaque or fatty streak. 

All particles marked with an Apo B tag can penetrate the endothelium and they have a greater risk of getting stuck.  They can aggregate together and start the formation of an arterial plaque.  This is called atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries.

I will discuss inflammation in our next month’s newsletter on Blood Pressure and again in December when we talk about one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease – smoking.

Increasing HDL

The best way to increase your protective cholesterol is by incorporating Omega 3 rich foods in your diet such as wild salmon and other oily fish and ground flax seeds.  Talk to your naturopathic doctor about an Omega 3 supplement.

Cholesterol from food

The cholesterol in your food contributes very little to your overall cholesterol burden.  Addressing METABOLIC DYSFUNCTION is far more important that reducing your egg intake.  For many people, eggs are a healthy food!

Arterial Plaque formation is a very SLOW process

Arterial plaques can start to form as early as our teens… yes our teens, eventually thickening the artery wall and narrowing the lumen or the inside space.  Arterial plaques can break off or cause clots which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.  We need to measure and take proactive steps for our cardiovascular health NOW to improve not only our life-span but our health span… the presence of awesome health as we age.

Testing your Cholesterol

Apo B – Again, Apo B is a simple blood test that can be a much better reflection of overall cholesterol burden.  Both your MD and your Naturopathic Doctor can run this test.

Lp(a) – Remember I said that there was one test everyone should have once in their lifetime?  It’s Lp(a). Lp “little A”, is a nasty little lipoprotein that can cause the MOST arterial damage by getting stuck under the endothelium, and starting plaque formation.  It is the most harmful lipoprotein and it is based solely on your genetics.  If you have a family history of early heart attacks, that healthy person in your family that suddenly died of a heart attack at age 50, you may be at risk for elevated Lp(a).  You will need to work with your family doctor and naturopathic doctor for VERY proactive prevention of arterial plaque formation.  This information and preventative action could save your life.

Oxidized LDL remember, LDL and other Apo-B tagged lipoproteins are a problem when they are oxidized, or exposed to free radical damage.  Luckily, Oxidized LDL, a reflection of oxidative stress in the body, can be measured in some our more advanced Cardio-Metabolic panels.  And of course, if there is increased oxidative stress in your body, you naturopathic doctor will be able to help!  (Hint – you may need to start eating blueberries every day, amongst other things.

Increasing Elimination of Cholesterol from the Body 

Your Naturopathic Doctor can give you multiple tools to manage DYSLIPIDEMIA – metabolic dysfunction that leads to too many cholesterol particles in your body.  Here are a few quick tips:

Fibre Fibre can bind to cholesterol and help your body remove it.  7g of psyllium fibre 2 times per day has been shown to reduce cholesterol and help maintain healthy weight.
Bile It is very important to ensure adequate bile flow from the liver especially if you have had your gall bladder removed.  Bile packages cholesterol from the blood and sends into the digestive tract for elimination from the body. Bitters such as bitter greens and apple cider vinegar before meals can stimulate bile flow from the liver.
Lipid Lowering Agents

Including Statin drugs, there are many options to help lower Apo B.  They key to cardiovascular disease prevention is MEASURING first and then PROACTIVE TREATMENT of your levels to improve you life span and health span.

I encourage you to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor for guidance on conventional and naturopathic treatments of dyslipidemia. opathic Doctor about testing and treatment options!